Aunt Lydia's Cove Group Won't Be Consulted On New Waterways Fund Expenditures

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Waterways

An $11 million bond to repair and upgrade waterfront infrastructure, including the town's fish pier, is one of the measures that will go before voters at Monday's annual town meeting. FILE PHOTO

CHATHAM – Members of the Aunt Lydia's Cove committee won't get a say in how money that will be collected into a new waterways user fee revolving fund will be expended.

The waterways user fee revolving fund, which will be established in an article in the May 8 annual town meeting, is expected to collect some $300,000 annually from the new waterways user fee and fish pier docking permit, lease and fuel pier revenue. The natural resources department would be authorized to spend up to $150,000 annually from the fund, in consultation with the waterways advisory committee and harbormaster and with the approval of the town manager.

But even though the fund collects money generated by the municipal fish pier operation, the Aunt Lydia's Cove committee, composed mostly of commercial fishermen who advise selectmen on fish pier issues, is not included among those to be consulted about expenditure from the fund.

Selectman Dean Nicastro noted that the waterways advisory committee is on the list of those providing input.

“Both committees should be involved in making recommendations” on the expenditures, he said.

Harbormaster Stuart Smith said neither the waterways committee nor the Aunt Lydia's Cove committee had discussed the matter. Waterways committee chairman Peter Taylor said there was no interest shown by the Aunt Lydia's Cove committee in the topic.

“We put the waterways user fee together,” he said. “It wouldn't be available to the town if it wasn't for the waterways committee.

The more committees get involved the more cumbersome the process becomes, he added. Members of the waterways committee also have knowledge about the needs at the fish pier.

“I don't think you need to include another committee. We can handle this,” he said.

The fund is more broadly aimed at waterways infrastructure, not just the fish pier, added Selectman Seth Taylor. There are enough checks and balances included in the fund provisions to provide oversight.

“Waterways is not likely to act outside of the interests of the Aunt Lydia's Cove committee,” he said.

Nicastro contended the more input on expenditures from the fund, the better. Chairman of Selectmen Jeffrey Dykens concurred. “I think we need to be inclusionary,” he said. “Three hundred thousand dollars is a lot of money. I would hope that the Aunt Lydia's Cove committee gets a voice and a vote.”

Late November selectmen approved the new waterways user fee, which will be collected on all vessels operating in town waters. Residents and nonresident taxpayers pay $50 per year, while non-residents pay $150 annually. The fee is expected to generate $150,000 to $175,000 annually.

The new revolving fund also collects about $150,000 annual from the three fish pier fees, said Natural Resources Director Robert Duncanson. According to the town meeting article, the funds are to be used to “defray waterway capital expenses related to design, permitting, construction, major repair or replacement of public waterfront/waterways infrastructure.”

The town is looking at millions of dollars of waterfront infrastructure projects over the next five years, including major work at the fish pier. Voters at town meeting will be asked to authorize $13 million for a variety of projects, ranging from the replacement of the south jog bulkhead at the pier to a new boat ramp at the Crow's Pond town landing.

The $300,000 that the new revolving fund will collect is “peanuts” given the total of proposed waterways projects, said Selectman Cory Metters. He suggested since the fund is new, input should be limited initially, and can be expanded if need be.

“Let's keep it simple and not complicate things,” he said.

A vote on Nicastro's motion to include the Aunt Lydia's Cove committee failed 3-2. A second motion by Nicastro to separate the waterways user fee revolving fund into a separate article – it is currently in a consolidated article together with five other recurring revolving funds – also failed, 4-1.

The board voted to support the consolidated revolving fund article, including the new waterways fund, 4-1, with Nicastro dissenting.